The Tension

and the Bend


Min Read

By Shelly Trumbo March 04, 2021
“Leadership is not a responsibility – nobody has to lead. It’s a gift, shining silver, that reminds people huddled nearby why each shimmering moment matters… things change when you care enough to grab whatever you love, and give it everything.” –Amanda Burr

There is a tension present in leading with vision inside an organization like Adventist Health. On one hand, our broad vision is given to us by our leaders and our organization. How does our own vision for the work fit? Does a personal vision for our collective work even matter? What level of autonomy should we exhibit through our leadership? On the other hand, the data is clear that without mission-driven, visionary leaders living throughout every segment of our organization, we will fall short of our purpose to design, leverage and demonstrate evidence-informed solutions that measurably and sustainably improve individual, organizational and community well-being.

Success in your role as a Well-Being leader will in no small part be because of your ability to gain credibility, inspire your hospital executive teams with what is possible, and align local and system strategies – all of which are effects of visionary leadership.

“Visionary leadership requires us to be possibility-thinkers. Operational leadership requires us to be realists. That tension, or balance, is where the magic occurs.”

Every leader has to become a visionary leader for the first time, and what we are expected to possess, we must develop. We aren’t born knowing how to be a visionary leader of transformative initiatives or collective impact movements. There is only one way to learn how to hold the tension of that responsibility and opportunity – we learn by doing.

Just like any other aptitude, we can intentionally chart a path to develop into a more visionary leader, while acknowledging that it may not be as simple as improving a more tangible skill like the proverbial ‘riding a bicycle’. Visionary leadership requires us to hold tension between opposing dynamics and requires maturity and thoughtful navigation.

“Powerful visions aren’t rolled out, they are woven into the fabric of everything we do.”

Your vision must be unique AND aligned

Even if you are the President or CEO, your vision doesn’t just come from you, but rather connects to the larger vision of the organization. The 2030 Strategy for Adventist Health is provided to us as a destination, and it’s up to us to map the course and make the vision relevant for ourselves, our teams, our stakeholders and our community. If we are living into our potential as visionary leaders, our vision creates shared meaning for others. Healthy dissent is important to our development as an organization, and we as individual leaders have chosen to invest our talents and passions here at Adventist Health. This comes with an obligation and a responsibility to align our personal vision with that of our organization. Well-Being is clearly front and center in our 2030 strategy as an organization, and we have the inspiring privilege of having that serve as a North Star to guide our path.

Your vision must be realistic AND optimistic

Running toward a dark future does not inspire us to fulfill our purpose and live our mission. An effective vision must balance the tension between realism and optimism. Visionary leaders are able to recognize the challenges and instead of fixating on obstacles and becoming overwhelmed by complexity, they envision solutions. Author and leadership coach, Jenni Catron, made a beautiful statement I wrote on a 3×5 card and taped to my computer monitor for a full year: “When we fully embrace the reality that complexity is our playing field as leaders, it becomes a game changer for how we approach our leadership. We no longer see complexity as a frustration. We see it as an opportunity. Complexity is where our best leadership happens.” Bring it on.

Visionary leadership requires us to be possibility-thinkers. Operational leadership requires us to be realists. That tension, or balance, is where the magic occurs. Sandy Shugart, in his inspiring book Leadership in the Crucible of Work, indirectly speaks to the urgency of vision: “The real tragedy isn’t that some have attempted much and failed, but that most have attempted so little and been so satisfied with modest success. It is our identification with limited success that most constrains our possibilities.” When we are able to see our personal vision inside the aspirational vision of our organization, we can align with our partners, teams and colleagues to move mountains.

Your vision must be individualized AND inclusive

An effective vision allows space for everyone. As a visionary leader, you are able to help all of your partners, stakeholders and team members see how their work connects to larger objectives. When partners and colleagues aren’t able to see themselves and their role within the larger vision, we experience resistance of every kind. As we continue on our transformational journey toward well-being, we must be diligent in helping our colleagues across the organization share in that vision and understand how to see their role within it. If you find significant resistance, reflect on the ways you can intentionally invite partners to help shape your local iteration of the overall vision. Ultimately, an entire organization of leaders who feel ownership and see themselves in the mission, vision and strategy is what is needed to live into our purpose.

Your vision must be fresh AND stable

If you seek to be a visionary leader, you must actively keep the vision alive through action. A vision that lives in a boardroom, or a binder on a shelf is pointless. Many strategies fall short because we, as leaders, get bored talking about them and repeating them over and over.

Powerful visions aren’t rolled out, they are woven into the fabric of everything we do. If you want a vision to stick, it must be brought to discussions at every opportunity. Author Todd Henry asserts that “the decision to lead, by someone, somewhere, is the point of origin for every great thing that has ever existed.” I would suggest that vision comes even before the decision to lead–vision for your potential, for your role within the overall vision of the organization, for what is possible for your community, for your team. Dream about it. Talk about it. Write about it. Set goals toward it. Visualize it. Reiterate it. Tell stories about it. Over and over again.

Interested in exploring more on the subject?


The Vision Driven Leader: 10 questions to focus your efforts, energize your team, and scale your business. Michael Hyatt

4 Dimensions of Extraordinary Leadership. Jenni Catron

Flourish. Martin Seligman

Big Potential. Shawn Achor

How will you measure your life? Clay Christensen, Harvard Business Review, July-August 2010

Define yourself as a leader. Harvard Manage Mentor Module, Adventist Health Connect

When managing through ambiguity, develop a clear vision. Cheryl Strauss Einhorn, Harvard Business Review, November 2020. Harvard Manage Mentor Module, Adventist Health Connect

It can be easy to downplay the importance of visionary leadership when working inside a large organization like Adventist Health, but it is critical to your ability to align your partners, colleagues and community toward well-being transformation. A key quality of visionary leadership is the ability to lead transformation from any level in the organization. Every member of our Well-Being team (that means you!) is here because we have a vision for our work that aligns with our broader Adventist Health vision. It is up to each of us to apply our best thinking to strengthening that vision and articulating it in a compelling way, regardless of the obstacles or opposition we face.

Great leaders bend their life around a vision that is more important than pay or prestige.” Todd Henry



This is part of a year-long Well-Being leadership conversation. Click below to read the overview and format for the discussion.


  1. Love this article! Thanks for the reminders, now let’s move some mountains!

    • Thank you, Shannon. Actually, you already are, but yes, let’s move some more. Love you!

  2. Wow, well said. Thank you Shelly for your inspiring leadership.